When you’re pregnant, you have plenty of new responsibilities and countless appointments. If you’re thinking of crossing something off your long list, don’t let it be your dental exam. Having your teeth cleaned during your pregnancy is more important than you may know.
A 2015 study from Delta Dental found that 42.5% of pregnant women skip their dentist appointments, which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says are critical during pregnancy.
How Does Pregnancy Affect Your Dental Health
Though most women don’t necessarily experience dental discomfort, pregnancy does create a unique situation. If you have dental problems, pregnancy can exacerbate them, and if you’ve never had any dental concerns, you may experience your first cavity, for instance.
Morning Sickness and Your Teeth
Morning sickness is a part of pregnancy for many women. Acid from your stomach can be strong enough to contribute to tooth erosion, according to the American Congress of Obestricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). If you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux later in your pregnancy, gastric acid can have the same effect on your teeth.
Although you may be tempted to brush your teeth immediately after a bout of morning sickness, the best thing you can do to protect your enamel is swish with baking soda and water afterward. Baking soda is basic, meaning it will help neutralize the acid from your stomach. Mix about a teaspoon of it into a cup of water, then use the mixture to rinse out your mouth before brushing.
As your body transitions through each term, your cells retain more and more fluid. This occurs throughout the body, including in the gums. With elevated hormone levels, the inflammatory response may be triggered by plaque resulting in puffy and inflamed gums. This condition is “pregnancy gingivitis.” Untreated, it leads to periodontal disease.
If you notice that your gums are bleeding more frequently during pregnancy, the American Pregnancy Association recommends being proactive about it. Your dentist might recommend more frequent professional teeth cleanings, at least until your baby is born.
Pregnant women sometimes experience an overgrowth of tissue called “pregnancy tumors.” Don’t let the name scare you; pregnancy tumors are not malignant. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), this typically occurs during the second trimester and is a swelling most often between the teeth. These growths bleed easily and have a raw-looking raspberry-like appearance. You can expect them to disappear once your baby is born. As always, talk to your dentist if you have any concerns.
What if I Need Dental Work?
Most dental work is safe to have during your pregnancy and should be taken care of if diagnosed while you’re pregnant. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees that procedures like cavity fillings and crowns are safe during pregnancy to prevent potential infection.
Sitting in a dental chair may be less comfortable during your last trimester, so if possible, schedule it during your second. Additionally, for cosmetic procedures like whitening, wait until after your baby is born.
Are X-rays Safe?
Yes! Your dentist or hygienist will cover you with a protective apron that minimizes exposure to the abdomen. The small dose of radiation you get while pregnant is concentrated and pointed at your mouth, not your belly. Your dental office, whenever possible, will cover your throat with a protective thyroid collar to protect from radiation.
Local Anesthetics During Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant and need a filling, root canal, or tooth pulled, the numbing medications that the dentist uses for your procedure are safe for you and your baby.
A study in the August 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association followed a group of pregnant women who had procedures that used anesthetics like lidocaine shots and a group that did not. “Our study identified no evidence to show that dental treatment with anesthetics is harmful during pregnancy,” said study author Dr. Hagai. “We aimed to determine if there was a significant risk associated with dental treatment with anesthesia and pregnancy outcomes. We did not find any such risk.”
Keep A Routine
Don’t let exhaustion, morning sickness, tender gums, or a sensitive gag reflex keep you from your daily dental routine. You must brush and floss twice a day as poor habits during pregnancy have been associated with premature delivery, intrauterine growth restriction, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia.
At Asheville Dental, we know this is a particularly unnerving time for expectant mothers. Pregnancy during a global pandemic requires extra measures of safety. You’ll find that we have taken that into great consideration with our high-quality air purifying system.
If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant and have questions about your oral health, contact us. We are happy to talk to you about what to expect at the dentist’s office when you’re expecting!